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Worker shortage makes Californian growers fear grapes will go unpicked

The number of workers has declined by a quarter to 40 percent in the first annual labor shortage in decades. Industry experts familiar with this situation rank labor shortages as the industry’s biggest challenge, before drought.

Amidst this situation, the shortage of qualified grape workers is unique. Producer costs have risen across the board, including reducing the number of hours agricultural workers spend in a week before overtime begins from 60 to 45 hours due to state regulations.

While this year’s crops are of high quality on all accounts and as abundant as last year, there are not enough people to choose everything, so it can rot in the vines.

As the problem worsened over the years, producers have gradually invested in mechanical innovations that make harvesting more efficient. Recently, some people bring guest workers from other countries to work. Meanwhile, the industry continues to push for immigration reform, which could take action in the US Senate shortly after passing the House of Representatives.

A July report from Rabo Research noted positive developments in the edible grape industry, from growing global demand to opportunities to differentiate products with high-quality varieties. The report also focuses on challenges such as intensifying international competition, especially for California producers, such as labor and water shortages.


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